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Exxon [then ESSO] knew all about climate change from burning fossil fuels in 1977!!!
NERMEEN SHAIKH: At its annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, ExxonMobil shareholders rejected a series of resolutions Wednesday calling for climate action, including resolutions backed by CalPERS, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, as well as the New York [state] Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the Church of England. Shareholders did pass a measure to let minority shareholders nominate outsiders for seats on the board, raising the possibility that a climate activist could someday become a director at Exxon. It was the first Exxon annual meeting since a series of revelations that for decades the company covered up its own scientific findings linking rising carbon emissions to dangerous climate change. At the shareholders meeting, the granddaughter of a former Exxon scientist questioned the CEO of Exxon about the company's record. This is part of what she said.
ANNA KALINSKY: It's good to have the opportunity to speak to you. So, my name is Anna Kalinsky. And my grandfather, James F. Black, was a scientist for Exxon for over 40 years. He started with Standard Oil during World War II, later earned dozens of patents for Esso and, later, Exxon. In 1977, he briefed the company's top executives on the scientific realities of climate change. He said that present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical, like you acknowledged on your slides. This is over 30, almost 40, years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Anna Kalinsky, who is the granddaughter of James Black, who was a scientist for Exxon for over 40 years. We're going to hear Rex Tillerson's answer, the CEO of Exxon, in a moment. But first to Anna herself, who's joining us now from Dallas along with co-founder Bill McKibben.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Anna McKibbenAnna Kalinsky, let's begin with you. Talk about what your grandfather found as an Exxon scientist.
ANNA KALINSKY: Absolutely. So, like I said, my grandfather worked for Exxon for about 40 years. And in 1977, he gave a presentation to top Exxon management. And he laid out very clearly that the planet was warming, that this was because of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and that those levels were rising because of the burning of fossil fuels. And at the time, he told Exxon that humankind had five to 10 years to start really making the hard decisions regarding climate change, or else the situation could become dire.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Anna Kalinsky, how many other scientists at Exxon at the time, in the 1970s, were doing comparable research, research comparable to what your grandfather, James F. Black, did?
ANNA KALINSKY: So, I don't have an exact number for you, but we know that at the time there were other scientists at Exxon doing climate research and that other organizations, in addition to Exxon, were receiving similar briefings.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to play Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson's response to your question at Wednesday's meeting.
REX TILLERSON: We will continue to engage in the policy discussions, as we currently do, with a number of broad-based groups on all sides of these issues, and we'll continue to be active in the discussions legislatively in Washington and elsewhere, including through the IPCC, on what we think are thoughtful, sensible policy actions that accommodate both our need for economic growth as well as addressing these risks, which are going to be very, very daunting.
AMY GOODMAN: So that's Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon. Anna Kalinsky, your response to his answer to your question?
ANNA KALINSKY: I find it incredibly frustrating. To say that we're looking at all sides of the climate change issue is ignoring that there has been global consensus on the realities of climate change for years and that Exxon has now, at this point, had four decades of knowledge about climate change, has their own scientists working, who know about these sorts of things. And for CEO Tillerson to say that Exxon wouldn't be taking decisive action either to cut ties with groups which deliberately spread climate change misinformation, groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and that Exxon also, even though they acknowledged during their shareholders meeting that climate change is real and that burning of fossil fuels has an effect, that it was more important for them to focus on their immediate bottom line, it's incredibly disheartening.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, your grandfather, James F. Black, presented his climate research findings to Exxon executives in July 1977, as you pointed out to the Exxon CEO. He concluded by saying, quote, "There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels. A doubling of carbon dioxide is estimated to be capable of increasing the average global temperature from 1 degree to 3 degrees centigrade, with a 10 degree centigrade rise predicted at the poles." Anna, that was your grandfather's report in 1977 to senior Exxon executives. So could you say a little about what you think the situation would be today, had Exxon executives listened to the advice of your grandfather?
ANNA KALINSKY: Absolutely. And something I think that's important to note is that Exxon actually did for a while take what my grandfather said seriously. He gave that initial briefing in 1977, and in 1978 Exxon had him give a similar briefing to a larger group. And for a while, they actually were funding climate change research. And for a few years, Exxon really was on the cutting edge of climate change science. And then, that spun around to the situation we're at today, where Exxon publicly and anonymously is funding these groups that spread climate change misinformation. But I think that had my grandfather been listened to back in the '70s, and had an organization like Exxon really taken action, we would be much closer or already at a much more greener climate, an economy of greener energy sources instead of our continued reliance on fossil fuels.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the petition you delivered at the Exxon shareholders meeting, and when you came to understand, as you were growing up, how significant your grandfather was in this whole climate change issue in exposing the large fossil fuel companies, like Exxon, and how you decided to speak out yourself?
ANNA KALINSKY: So, I came down as a volunteer with, which is a group that works against the spread of climate change denial, climate change disinformation. And when I went to the shareholders meeting, I delivered a petition with almost 35,000 signatures askingor demanding, rather, that Exxon leave ALEC, that they cut associations with ALEC, one of those groups which spreads climate change misinformation.
But as for my relationship with my grandfather growing up, he died a few years before I was born, so I never actually had the opportunity to meet him. But I was the only scientist growing up in my family. I graduated last year with an undergraduate degree in chemistry, just like he did. And so, he was always a mythological sort of figure for me. He was the person where my love of science came from. And so, I grew up with stories from my mother about things that my grandfather did, his research. The climate change was one of the things that I learned about.
And then, this past fall, when InsideClimate News started publishing the articles about how Exxon has known about climate change since the '70s, and how he was featured very strongly in that, it was something that gave me a lot of pride. I was really excited that my family was a part of this. And as time has gone on, you know, I've continued to feel that way. So, when asked me to come down here, I was really proud to carry on the family legacy of speaking out against Exxon and speaking kind of on behalf of science and not political rhetoric.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
AMY GOODMAN: In addition to Anna Kalinsky, who's speaking to us from Dallas, where she just spoke up at the Exxon shareholders meeting, challenging the Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, talking about her grandfather's findings, oh, decades ago, we're joined by Bill McKibben, co-founder of and a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College. His recent piece in The Guardian is headlined "Let's give up the climate change charade: Exxon won't change its stripes."
Bill, we're speaking to you at your home in Middlebury, Vermont. Can you talk about what happened at the Exxon meeting, its significance, what shareholder resolutions were voted down, and where you believe the movement should go from here?
BILL McKIBBEN: Sure. First of all, just to say, Anna, what a good job yesterday! And that's not an easy thing to do, to get up in an auditorium like that and speakliterally speak truth to power. So, good for you.
Look, what happened yesterday at the Exxon meeting is the same thing that's happened at every Exxon meeting since 1990. There have now been upwards of 70 shareholder resolutions put forward to do something about climate change, and most of them incredibly mild, merely "give us a report about what you plan to somehow do someday to deal with some direction with climate change." Every single one of them has been voted down. That's why, you know, the Rockefellers, whose family founded the darn company, divested all their stock and gave up in trying to change that way a year or so ago, and instead joined this huge, growing movement to demand real change. And I'll note thatone very good piece of good news yesterday: While Exxon was stonewalling and continuing its time-honored traditions, University of Massachusetts became the largest public university system to divest from all fossil fuels, which was a very powerful moment, indeed, in this big campaign.
I should add, too, that it's not just Exxon, though Exxonbecause, as Anna says, we now know that they knew everything about climate change, that there's a sort of particulara particular horror in their story. But earlier this week at their annual meeting, the CEO of Shell saidexplained that we didn't want to switch to renewables too quickly because that would, quote, "imperil the dividends," unquote. We're living in a world, as you know, Amy, that's basically sliding out of control. 2016 is crashing every record we've ever had for high temperature. We're losing vast swaths of coral reef. We've got unprecedentedly large early season fires burning in the boreal north. And this guy thinks the thing that's in peril is his dividends? That should tell you what you need to know.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Bill McKibben, could you say something about the progress that the divestment movement has made and why you think divestment is likely to be a more successful strategy with Exxon in getting them to change their climate policy?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I think that the real point of the divestment movement has been to kind of withdraw social license from these fossil fuel companies, and thereby reduce their political power. The reason we haven't gotten anywhere on climate change for the 40 years that we've known about it is precisely because these guys wield so much political power. I mean, look, Exxon knew perfectly well that what Anna's grandfather was saying was correct. They set to work climate-proofing all their own drilling rigs and other installations to account for the sea level rise they now knew was coming. But at the same time, they set up this vast framework, with others, of climate denial and deceit and disinformation. And they continue to, you know, hand out campaign checks to precisely the politicians that make sure nothing ever happens on these issues.
So, the point, at this point, is to use this divestment movement as a vehicle to get that across. And it is working. It's not just, or even mainly, that there have beenit became the biggest divestment movement ever. I think at this point, you know, we're closing in on $4 trillion worth of portfolios and endowments that have divested. The point is that it's taken the basic message, the message that we have five times as much carbon in our reserves than any scientist thinks we could possibly burn, and it's gotten that through. You know, three or four years ago, that was people like me writing in, you know, Rolling Stone. Now it's the head of the World Bank, the head of the IMF, the governor of the Bank of England speaking to the world's insurance industry at Lloyd's of London. That message is getting through everywhere except Exxon and its ilk. Yesterday, Mr. Tillerson was boasting about how the company was going out and making new finds of oil in new places around the world. We have five times as much carbon in our reserves already as we can burn. The idea that we should celebrate the exploration for new hydrocarbons at this point goes past irony into some dark place that I don't really have a name for.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill, Jane Mayer just did another major New Yorker piece, this one called "Sting of Myself," about a shadowy right-wing organization, America Rising Squared, that targets you, Bill McKibben. Can you talk about this?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, not really, because, as you say, theiryou know, no one knows where their money is coming from and things. I just know that now when I go out to speak, there are always people trailing around after me with video cameras and things. They said that it wasthat they werethat it was the first time theyyou know, anyone had done this on this scale to someone who wasn't running for president, which I have not the slightest desire to run for or anything like it. I don't know quite what to make of it, except it's sort of creepy. But there you go. It'syou know, on the list of problems afflicting the world, it's probably somewhat smaller than the fact that we just lost a huge part of the world's coral reefs in the course of two weeks as this pulse of hot water
AMY GOODMAN: But what's the group, and who is targeting your? Who's funding it? And how do you know this is happening?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we know it's happening because they announced it. They sent out a memo to Politico saying that they were spending all this money and having trackers everywhere. And now they've put up little, you know, few-second clips of me, not of anything me speaking, just of me in wherever I am, to prove that they're there. And I don't know what's going to come of it. And no one knows who's funding it. But, you know, it is what it is.

"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Same with asbestos, here in the 'former United Kingdom'. ...
Martin Luther King - "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Albert Camus - "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion".
Douglas MacArthur — "Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons."
Albert Camus - "Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear."
same with the tabacco industry worldwide; same with Monsanto and their killer GMO and pesticide could go on....corporations only care about profits and dividends...not their products nor what their products do to people and the environment.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass

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